Two former Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity members convicted of felony hazing met in a hearing Monday and learned they may have to wait longer behind bars to hear the status of their court appeals.
Jason Harris and Michael Morton, accompanied by their attorneys Beverly Pohl and Chuck Hobbs, gathered before Circuit Judge Kathleen Dekker to motion for release while the appeals process takes its course.
“The good part is that we are asking for her to let them out on bond as the appeal works itself out,” Hobbs said.
Judge Dekker reviewed three criteria that must be met in order to release the men on bond from prison.
Hobbs said the judge looked at the defendants’ “personal flight risks, whether they posed a danger to the community and legitimate issues for debates on appeal.”
Dekker did not find that Harris and Morton were at risk of running away if released, nor did she feel they were a danger to the community, Hobbs said.
However, Hobbs suggested the judge did have qualms about the third point.
“She did not make a decision on whether there weren’t substantial debatable issues dealing with the appeal,” Hobbs said.
In the hearing, State State Attorney Frank Allman continued to stress that the defendants should serve the time to which they have been sentenced.
And once again the unresolved issue of distinguishing between “great bodily harm and serious bodily injury” came into play, Hobbs said.
The judge requested Allman and each of the defense attorneys provide written rebuttals addressing the difference between the refutable parts of speech in the Chad Meredith Act, which made hazing illegal.
In the meantime, Hobbs said the defendants remain optimistic about possibly being released.
“It looks favorable,” he said. “Both men would be ecstatic if the judge issues a bond for them.”
The convicted men have been imprisoned since their sentence Jan. 29.
“The appeal process could take nine months to two years,” Hobbs said. “If the young men are eventually freed, that could be two years of their lives spent behind bars in vain.”For now, Harris and Morton are awaiting a bond-pending appeal.
“If the judge allows them out on bond, there will be a hearing in the first court of appeals” to announce the decision, Hobbs said.
As for the three other Kappa members whose cases were declared a mistrial, Brian Bowman, Cory Gray and Marcus Hughes, a third hearing is scheduled to begin March 19. Originally, trial was set for March 12, but it was removed from the docket because of scheduling conflicts.